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NEPC equips Cocoa farmers with current standards, techniques, export packaging

To avoid losing about one trillion naira by 2020 to product/crop neglect, the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), in collaboration with the Abia State Government, has concluded strategic training workshop for Cocoa farmers from Imo, Akwa Ibom, Cross River states and host state.

During the training, Business Hilights South East Bureau chief observed that about 600 participating farmers and stakeholders in cocoa business in Abia, numbering over 2,000 comprising farmers, merchants, and exporters were in attendance.

Key explanations were made on issues facing cocoa export, including current standards and quality techniques that conform to buyers’ requirements especially in the European Union market and export logistics to other continents.

It would be recalled that Abia State, which ranked third among the 21 cocoa producing states in the country, fell to the eight position, while Nigeria now ranked fourth among the global major cocoa producing nations, and by this, contributing only six per cent of the world’s expected 3.5 million tonnes of dry cocoa beans.

Statistics shows that as at April 2017, cocoa output was 1,148,992 tonnes from Cote d’Ivoire; 835,466 in Ghana; and 367,000 from Nigeria.

Some of major players in agri-business had “expressed fears that Nigeria may lose up to N1trillion by Year 2020, if nothing is done to grow the product massively.”

In his address, the chief executive officer of NEPC, Abdullahi Sidi-Aliyu, said: “Nigeria is yet to explore her potential in cocoa industry in the continent when compared with countries such as Cot d’Ivoire, and Ghana.

Represented by the Director, Product Development Department, William Ezeagu, NEPC boss averred that “it was this scenario that prompted NEPC’s readiness to partner with state governments, NGOs, farmers, and cocoa exporters to work out programmes that would create the desired value chain in the sector”.

“Nigerian Cocoa has consistently remained profitable for several decades and rated one of the best in the world because of its flavor.

Some of the key challenges highlighted by NEPC include low Cocoa prices, poor productivity, and vulnerability to price down turns due to volatile commodity markets, limited knowledge of new/efficient farming techniques, poor or lack of organisational capacity among farmers’ groups, and poor pest control and many others.

According to him, “These have continued to hamper Nigeria’s ability to command fair market share from the product internationally.

“Nigeria’s earnings from cocoa and cocoa products accounted for $338.17million in 2015, and $242.23million in 2016, which amounted to 20.8 and 20.13 per cent respectively in the corresponding years,” Sidi-Aliyu noted.

Ealier in his opening address, the Abia State Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, who represented by his deputy, Ude Oko Chukwu, declared the workshop open, and averred that the downturn in the national economy due to the dwindling global crude oil prices, has necessitated attention to economic diversification in which agriculture remains the best bet.

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